In the Department of Defense Military Room of the Berkeley County Museum at the Belle Boyd House, there is a plain ladder back rocking chair which has an unusual and mysterious history. Whether the story is true or only family lore, it illustrates the passions and dangers experienced during the Civil War in Berkeley County.
The rocking chair belonged to Dr. Francis “Frank” Davis (1833-1903) of Bedington. On the left side of the chair back there is a wide groove, said to have been made by a sniper’s bullet.
There are two stories of how this occurred. One story says Dr. Davis was sitting in his chair when a cavalryman shot at him for aiding the enemy. The story doesn’t say who the “enemy” was, or the date of the incident.
Another story says that during the war, while Dr. Davis was sitting in a rocking chair, an irate citizen shot through the window, the bullet passing through the chair back and lodging in the fireplace. The citizen mistook Dr. Davis for his brother, who was against the war.
Dr. Frank Davis was from Washington County, MD. He and his wife moved in 1858 to a 119-acre farm in Hainesville (now Bedington). Davis was a typical country doctor who was highly respected in the community. According to the Martinsburg Statesman Democrat newspaper, he helped everyone, rich or poor, and went out day or night, in any weather to care for his patients.
The story regarding his brother is elusive. By 1860 Davis had only two living brothers. Josiah Ellsworth Davis and Theodore Hamilton Davis. Both are listed in the 1860 census as living with their mother in Washington County, MD. Both of them could have visited to their brother’s farm. Western Marylanders would more likely have been union supporters and they may have been at risk if their views were known in Virginia. Berkeley County voted against secession and had plenty of proponents of both sides.
Both stories are very possible, during the Civil War. Without hearing directly from Dr. Davis himself, we are left to ponder the mysterious story behind the plain ladder back rocking chair on display in the Belle Boyd House.